Louisville Orchestra Season Finale Broadcast

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Classical 90.5 presents the final Louisville Orchestra concert from the 2014-15 season Thursday evening at 8 pm. The music, which is conducted by LO Music Director Teddy Abrams, begins with John Williams’ The Cowboys Overture, featuring music written for the 1972 film The Cowboys starring John Wayne. Abrams ends the program with his interpretation of the Symphony No. 5, Op. 67, by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can read Daniel Gilliam’s review of the concert here)

The trio Time for Three – Nick Kendall, violin, Zach De Pue, violin and Ranaan Meyer, Double Bass – appear on the program also. TfT has been exciting audiences wherever they appear with their unique arrangements and grouping of instruments. Listen to Alan Brandt’s interview with the three musicians:

Review: Louisville Orchestra Closes 2014-15 Season with Time for Three

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(Photo credit LeAnn Mueller)

The Louisville Orchestra concludes its 2014-2015 season this week featuring Time for Three, John Williams’ The Cowboys overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Op. 67.

The Cowboys overture is everything you want from a western film score and John Williams: driving string melodies, brass fanfares, evocative percussion and folksy woodwind tunes. The Louisville Orchestra played it as cleanly and effortlessly as any Hollywood studio orchestra.

Violinists Zachary DePue and Nicholas Kendall, and bassist Ranaan Meyer, collectively known as Time for Three, gave an electric performance of their signature arrangements that are filled with improvisation and jams. With no shortage of charisma and stage presence, the virtuosic trio was a crowd pleaser and didn’t shy away from engaging, even verbally, with the Thursday morning audience.

The set arranged and re-imagined several popular songs, from Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered “Hallelujah” and the bluegrass tune “Orange Blossom Special,” to Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man” and an amalgam of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry me a River.” (Yes, you read that last phrase correctly.) The most successful arrangements involved the orchestra more than just as a backup band, as in Vittorio Monti’s Czardas, a Hungarian folk-inspired showpiece. The orchestra arrangement was colorful and supportive, but also fun for the ensemble. Concertmaster Michael Davis was even allowed to cut loose for a solo. The creative Barber/Timberlake mashup made eloquent use of the strings’ lyrical and percussive qualities. Other arrangements were less fulfilling, pushing the orchestra to an almost inaudible level in the background. This is something you can expect on a pops concert, but not during a mainstay subscription performance.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 isn’t a quiet one. It can be easily generalized as loud and vigorous, but hidden in the details are delicate, quiet moments. Playing loud is easy, playing soft is difficult, because the latter requires more refinement, if the music is to come across as cleanly, similar to edging the window sill instead of painting the wall with a roller. Playing loud takes care, too, and the orchestra or Abrams never lost control.

The orchestra created a seamless connection between the brash and subtle music, assured that even the details would stand out. Abrams’ tempo decisions were appropriately on the edge of too fast — the right place for Beethoven’s fifth. The final movement was triumphant and exhilarating, and speaking of details: the slight lingering on the third chord in the final movement’s opening fanfare (and its subsequent returns) was hair-raising.

The Louisville Orchestra, Time for Three and Teddy Abrams perform this program again on the final concert of the 2014-2015 Saturday at 8pm in Whitney Hall.

Time for Three Visits Louisville

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The trio Time for Three – Nick Kendall, violin, Zach De Pue, violin and Ranaan Meyer, Double Bass – is appearing with the Louisville Orchestra on April 23 and 25 at the Kentucky Center. Classical 90.5’s Alan Brandt talked to the group about their origins and their new recording.

Prokofiev Shines in Louisville orchestra broadcast

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Jorge Mester conducts and Robert Thies is the pianist in our next broadcast of the Louisville Orchestra on Classical 90.5, Thursday at 8 pm. Thies, who will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, is the first American pianist to win a Russian piano competition since Van Cliburn’s famed triumph in Moscow in 1958. Jorge Mester hails Robert “a genius.”

Peter Illych Tchaikovsky’s emotional Symphony No. 6 is also on the program. Mester conducts the work on the heels of his last appearance which included Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6. The maestro says the latter work was influenced by Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Hector Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture begins the broadcast. Read Daniel Gilliam’s review of this Louisville Orchestra performance here.

Review: Louisville Orchestra Highlights Russian Masterworks

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Review: Louisville Orchestra Highlights Russian Masterworks

Thursday morning, on the eve of his 80th birthday, Jorge Mester conducted his penultimate concert of the 2014-2015 Louisville Orchestra season with two major Russian works.

To open the concert, the orchestra played Berlioz’s Roman Carnival with vigor and excitement, with some beautiful moments from the violas, and a tender English horn solo from Trevor Johnson. Ultimately, against the Prokofiev concerto and the Tchaikovsky symphony, the overture felt more like a necessary formality in the orchestra-concert formula than a genuine statement.

The third piano concerto of Sergei Prokofiev balances witty humor and profound rhetoric, and Prokofiev establishes this M.O. in the initial five minutes of the concerto. Pianist Robert Thies and the orchestra play equal roles, moving gracefully through sometimes quirky, sometimes elegant tunes. There is always something interesting to hear because Prokofiev is always saying something interesting. Even in the transitions — when the music is leading us to an important moment — we find curiosities and gems.

Thies brought an unassuming stage presence to Whitney Hall; lacking all the glitz, body and facial contortions common in soloists. Instead, he allowed Prokofiev’s music to exude personality and affectation. His enthusiasm for this third concerto was belied only by the tiniest grin during his first bow.

Soloist and orchestra were effortless and fluid, with a sparkling urgency throughout. But it was the middle movement, a set of theme and variations, that felt surreal. Here is a composer who is improvising, inviting the orchestra to interject and punctuate, and Thies’ ability to be unobtrusive allowed Prokofiev to be present, as though he had opened a portal to the moment of creation.

Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s final Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” premiered just nine days before his death, is the masterpiece we hope to hear again and again. Mester and orchestra, returning to a work they’ve performed many times, didn’t let their comfort with the notes impair a clear understanding and delivery of the music. Even at its most brooding, Mester didn’t hesitate to move the music forward. The strings were rich and resonant, and woodwind principals Marilyn Nije and Matthew Karr each gave poetic solos in the first movement.

The second movement, a sort of peg-leg waltz, was charming. Only in the final minutes did the waltz unhinge slightly. The stately third movement was peppy and cheerful, slightly reminiscent of The Nutcracker (a score the LO becomes intimately familiar with each holiday season). The fatalistic last movement, more tenebrous than the first, points to the inevitable and leaves us with questions without answers. Regardless of the Pathétique’s actual meaning or message, Tchaikovsky’s final symphony continues to speak profoundly and personally, and fresh performances like Thursday morning’s allow for that introspection.

As evidenced in this concert, and recent performances of Brahms and Elgar, this is a romantic orchestra, with a penchant for emotionally robust works. Ideally, an orchestra can play any period (baroque, classical, contemporary, etc) with equal authority, but the true colors of this band are showing.

The Louisville Orchestra presents this concert again on Friday evening at 8pm in Whitney Hall.